Questions for the Creator of ‘Burning Love,’ the Ultimate ‘Bachelor’ Spoofby HowAboutWe on February 18, 2013
Erica Oyama adores “The Bachelor.” The LA-based screenwriter and mother of two got hooked on the show during the first weeks after her son was born, and a passing interest soon became a full-blown obsession–and then a screenplay of her own. Ben Stiller’s production company took notice, and soon the parody “Burning Love” was born. An instant success on Yahoo Screen, the web series (to be aired as 30-minute episodes on E! beginning Feb 25) is the most masterful and comprehensive “Bachelor” spoof ever done, down to every last awkward greeting, painful public rejection, and passive aggressive “Can I steal you for a minute?”
The format is familiar to anyone who’s ever seen the original (meaning virtually everyone who owns a TV): hunky bachelor Mark Orlando (Ken Marino, Oyama’s husband) is looking for love, and his mating pool is a group of ladies competing for his affection. Orlando nails the clueless-humorless-dullsville hunk (“I’m looking for someone who makes me laugh, and isn’t afraid of robots”), and his potential ladyloves are a menagerie of outrageous characters — one is homeless (Malin Akerman), one is pregnant (Morgan Walsh), one is blind (Carla Gallo), and one spends her entire appearance in a panda suit (Jennifer Aniston). Now, with Season Two just premiering on Yahoo, we sat down with Oyama to talk love on TV.
First let’s talk about “The Bachelor.” What is it about this show that makes it so wildly addictive? I mean on its face, it’s a reality game show where the prize is to manipulate someone into falling in love with you. And yet we love it.
I think we’re all addicted to the premise of the show, which, when you think about it, is pretty incredible: you have this one person and no one has met him, but everyone is pre-in-love with him, and we the viewers get to watch these real people tapdance to get any attention from this person–this stranger total who they supposedly want to marry (or at least, they’re saying they want to marry). However you look at it, that’s a very entertaining idea for a show.
Definitely true, but what makes it work so well in practice?
The emotional element of the show is what really makes it compelling. Seeing people actually heartbroken at the end of a two-week romance, when it doesn’t work out–it’s pretty amazing. And the situations–the roller derby dates and helicopters and wine at every term–it’s the perfect setting for a show.
Still, at the end of the day we all know most of the emotion is bogus. This is not a recipe for ever actually falling in love, don’t you agree?
There have been a few successful couples [on "The Bachelor"]–anything is possible. But yes, more times than not it doesn’t work out. It’s kind of funny the way the host, Chris Harrison, has started giving a disclaimer on the show–something like “We help people find love, what happens after that is their business.” He and the producers must have realized that the show is super successful, but not based on the success of what happens after the season ends.
The show has been begging to be parodied for years, and “Burning Love” spoofs it masterfully – the awkwardness of the initial meetings, the passive aggressive tactics to put down the competition, the extreme emotions of contestants. What’s the hardest part of “The Bachelor” to parody?
I don’t know if anything has been difficult to parody–what surprises us is that people still become invested in the “Burning Love” characters, as completely ridiculous as they are. People start being invested in who wins and who goes home, and they actually feel sad when their favorite character is let go, even if that character is 84 years old, or Jennifer Aniston in a panda suit. That’s been the biggest surprise. The luxury of being a parody is that we can be as ridiculous as we want.
As someone in a long-term relationship, you know the complexities that come with meeting someone, falling in love, etc. Do you think your experience lets you watch “The Bachelor” and shows like it with a more cynical eye? Or do you get sucked in just as easily?
We’ve all grown up with fairy tales and ideas of what the perfect romance would be, and here’s this TV show where you’re seeing all these people trying to have that fantasy, and that’s very relatable. The competition element of it is crazy – that desperate need for it to all work out. There’s a conflation between the people trying to win the contest, and the people actually trying to fall in love. We saw a lot of that in Ashley’s season of “The Bachelorette,” with these guys who are saying all the right things, and manipulating her into falling for them, and it’s a complete game to them.
You know what goes into a marriage. It’s hard. There are tough conversations about merging bank accounts and joining families and how you’re going to raise kids. How do you feel watching these people talk about marriage like the big prize after the long race?
It’s the classic thing when you’re watching a romantic comedy and at the end they get together, but then the marriage is a whole other chapter that you never see. Marriage isn’t a fantasy. You’re gonna be annoyed with each other. You’re gonna get mad. He’s gonna leave his pants on the floor. It’s not always gonna be this magical waltz into the sunset. And I would say that’s probably what breaks a lot of these “Bachelor” couples up after the season ends.
On the show, everyone is under such a magnifying glass, they’re just trying to say the right things and be this perfect person in order to make it to the next round, and eventually be chosen. Afterwards is a rude awakening and that’s why only 3 couples have gotten married.
Who’s your favorite bachelorette from Season 1 of Burning Love?
I love them all so much. I’m happy that Julie has been given another shot at love.
What about from the real show?
I loved Emily, I loved Ashley’s season, and Deanna was very entertaining too. Deanna yelled at the guys, she didn’t hold back, and they were really into her. There were a few guys who really wanted to marry her. Emily was this perfect southern Dolly Parton sweetheart with this very intense backstory. She was one of the ones you felt like everyone really wants to marry. And Ashley, bless her heart, she just got sucked in with this bad guy. And then she got married on TV to the other guy, and then got nail art that had his face on it on the wedding special.
What do you see in the future for Burning Love?
We’re about to release Season 2, and we’re editing Season 3 right now – it’s like Bachelor Pad, except they compete for a total prize of $900.
In the first season you’ve got Jennifer Aniston in a panda suit, how did that happen?
She was the coolest nicest person. She’d talked a lot about her love for “The Bachelor,” and how ridiculous it was. She was our first ask, and she said yes. And no, she wasn’t in the panda suit the whole time.
The bachelor in Season 1 is played by your husband, and he nails the character–an utterly vapid, shallow man, who seems capable of nothing but putting on a nice suit, uttering three-word phrases, and showing up on time. Was it at all strange watching your husband play this character?
He loves playing Mark–he gets such a rise out of how stupid Mark is and how proud of himself he is over the smallest things. Knowing Ken for as long as I have, I used part of his personality to create the character–when he’s joking and being obnoxious, he’s exactly like Mark. So this character isn’t that much of a stretch for him.